Park Listings & Information

Leave What You Find in Natural Areas

Interest in foraging in parks, forests and ravines has been increasing over the years. Aside from the fact that removing plants from public land is prohibited by Toronto's parks by-law, there are other factors which make foraging a practice you'll want to avoid.

One: Sensitive habitats are impacted easily

In a city of 2.8 million people, we are lucky to share our ravines and natural areas with each other and varied urban wildlife. Some ravines have been designated as Environmentally Significant Areas because they contain rare species, habitats of unusually high diversity, rare landforms or provide important ecological function.  Many plants that foragers are keen to collect, grow in sensitive habitats, such as upland forests or river valleys. Trampling soft soils and other plants negatively impacts the entire habitat. Informal trails created by foragers can cause compaction, erosion and significant damage to the understory. You may also come across plants and insects in our natural areas, such as poison ivy, stinging nettle, ticks that could carry disease  and red ants, which can cause adverse reactions in certain people ranging from mild stinging and discomfort to itchy rashes and blisters.

Two: Depleting resources happens fast

Harvesting plants removes seed sources that allow the plants to propagate, and decreases biodiversity and food sources for wildlife. Disturbing plants and soils can also introduce or disperse invasive species into new areas. These invasive plants can quickly out-compete native species, reducing biodiversity and the quality of habitat for insects and wildlife.

It does not take long for a resource to become depleted. Even following a foraging rule where you would only harvest 20% of a crop, it would only take three foragers to remove 49% of the resource. By the time the sixth forager was done their harvest, 74% of the plants would be gone.

Three: Do you really know what you're eating?

Many safe and toxic plants have subtle differences that are difficult to detect. Some plants and mushrooms are toxic, and ingestion can lead to severe illness, and even death.

Finally: Removing plants is prohibited

Whether you're thinking of heading out on our own or with a professional organization, think twice. Foraging and harvesting plants from Toronto's parks, forests and ravine lands is prohibited by the Parks By-Law Chapter 608.

What are some alternatives to foraging?

If you are interested in gardening in a City park you can get an allotment plot or join/start a community garden.

If you are interested in assisting in harvesting what others have grown consider volunteering for Not Far from the Tree, a local non-profit that connects volunteers with homeowners to harvest their trees. One third of the harvest goes to the homeowner, one third to the volunteers and one third to a local food bank, shelter or community kitchen.

 If you are interested in assisting with natural area management and controlling invasive species, you can volunteer with Urban Forestry's Community Stewardship Program.